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Corns and Callus: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment and Difference

Verified By Apollo Dermatologist September 17, 2020 21797 0
Corns and Callus
Corns and Callus

A callus is a condition that forms as thickened layers of skin due to the response of repeated friction, pressure, and irritation. Calluses are commonly found on the feet and hands but can also occur anywhere on the skin. Calluses are like corns that can also occur in the same way.

Treatment for corns and calluses are required only if the person feels any discomfort, and most people try to eliminate the source of friction, which makes them disappear. However, patients with diabetes or any other condition resulting in poor blood flow to the feet are at greater risk of complications. It is imperative to have proper medical attention, which is usually required for people having such conditions.

What are the corns and calluses?

Corns and calluses generally refer to the thickening of skin cells, especially on the feet, hands, and fingers. It can occur in other areas of the body too.


Corns show up as small, round thickened cells most probably seen on the top and side area of your toes. The following are some types of corns:

  •  Hard corns – These are usually found among a larger area of thickened skin. They are small, hard and dense thickened skin that forms on the top of the toe, since the area pressures against the bone. 
  • Soft corns – These corns are comparatively softer and have a rubbery texture. They appear whitish/grey and usually appear in between the toes. 
  • Seed corns – These are smaller than the other two types of corns, and appear in the bottom of the feet. 


Calluses appear in a more spread-out manner compared to corns. They are hard and thick patches of skin and are larger than corns. Calluses are formed in areas that carry weight or that experience continuous friction or rubbing. Some of the areas where this can be found are the side and ball of the foot, big toe, heel, tips of guitar player’s fingers, and hands of riders, gymnasts, or weightlifters. Calluses are normal to a certain degree. 

What is the difference between callus and corn?

It is a part of the skin that thickens due to friction or pressure.A type of callus that is made of dead skin is called corn.
They are yellowish or pale in color and lumpy to touch.Hard corns are small and thick, whereas soft corns are white and have a rubbery texture.
Calluses are found to be bigger and wider than corns.Corns are small and circular with a defined center that may be hard or soft.

What are the causes of a Callus?

Repetitive pressure and friction on a specific skin area are the lead cause of the occurrence and growth of calluses and corns. Some of the common sources of friction and pressure include: 

  • Wearing ill-fitting shoes and socks: Wearing shoes and socks which do not fit properly can cause calluses. If the shoes are loose, the feet may rub the sides of the shoes and this constant rubbing can cause callus. Similar is the case with socks and other sandals. 
  • Skipping socks: Not wearing a sock with shoes and sandals may also cause callus.
  • Usage of hand tools or playing instruments: Repeated usage of instruments like guitar can cause callus. Even putting too much pressure while writing can cause a callus due to the friction happening between the pen and hand. 
  • Inheriting the tendency to develop calluses: In some people calluses or corns occurring in the weight-bearing areas are genetic. 

 What are the symptoms of a callus?

Corns and calluses make a person feel like they are walking on stones. The following are signs and symptoms – 

  • A hardened and raised bump. 
  • Waxy, dry, or flaky skin. 
  • A rough and thick skin area. 
  • Pain and tenderness under the skin. 

If the callus becomes painful and releases any liquid, the patient must seek immediate medical advice, as it can mean that the callus area is infected. In addition, patients who have diabetes, peripheral neuropathy and peripheral arterial disease need to be very careful about callus.

Corns and calluses differ and it is vital to know about it. 

  • Corns : are smaller but dense. They appear with a dense center and swollen skin surrounding them. Hard corns appear in the outer area and the small toe whereas the small corns appear in between the toes. Corns are painful if applied pressure. 
  • Calluses : cover a bigger area and are less dense than corn. They are rarely painful and forms as a thin patch on the weight-bearing areas like heels, palms and knees. 

Are Corns and Calluses Painful? 

Corns and calluses need not be painful at the beginning of their occurrence. But some of them, especially corns, thicken over time and become painful when pressed. Calluses tend to be less sensitive than the skin near and sometimes may crack. These cracks or fissures are painful and if they are infected, discomfort and pain can occur.

How is a callus diagnosed in a patient?

The doctor will check the feet and rule out warts and cysts as possible reasons for thicker skin. An X-ray might be requested if a physical anomaly produces the corn or callus.

What are the risk factors associated with a Callus?

Certain factors may increase the risk of occurrence or recurrence, including:

  • Hammertoe – It is a deformity in which the toe gets curled up like a claw. 
  • Bunion – A bunion is a bony and abnormal bump that occurs on the joint at the base of the big toe. 
  • Other foot deformities – Foot deformities such as a bone spur can lead to constant rubbing of the skin inside your footwear, leading to a callus. 
  • Not protecting the hands – Using hand tools and instruments without proper protective covering can expose your skin to constant friction and pressure, increasing the risk of a callus.

When should one see a doctor for a callus?

If the person is healthy and the calluses are not giving too much discomfort, then the person does not need expert treatment. However, there are several circumstances in which one should seek the advice of a foot specialist: 

  • If one has diabetes or any condition that weakens the immunity, nerve health and weakened circulation. 
  • Experiences pain and difficulty doing regular activity. 
  • Corns and calluses are occurring very often. 

Request an appointment at Apollo Hospitals

What are the treatments available for treating a callus that is painful or infected?

Corns and calluses are usually treated by wearing proper-fitting shoes and protective pads. However, if the condition persists, medical treatments can provide relief.

  • Trimming the excess skin – The doctor will pull down the thickened skin to prevent the pain. 
  • Callus-removing medication – A 40% salicylic acid patch can be applied. A pumice stone, nail file are other techniques suggested by doctors. 
  • Shoe inserts – The doctor may prescribe custom-made padded shoe inserts to prevent corns or calluses if the patient has an underlying foot abnormality. 
  • Surgery – The doctor may recommend surgery for calluses in rare instances.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Some home remedies and lifestyle changes can cure a callus or corn. One can try the following for preventing calluses and for relief:  

  • Use over-the-counter pads or liquid corn removers on the affected area. 
  • Soak your feet and hands in warm and soapy water. This helps soften the skin, making it easier to remove the callus or corn. 
  • Rub a callus or corn with a washcloth, emery board, nail file, or pumice stone to remove the layer of thickened skin. 
  • Apply moisturizer on the skin to keep it soft. 
  • Wear well-fitted, cushioned, and comfortable socks and shoes to minimize the possibility of any corn or callus.

What are the necessary precautionary measures to avoid a callus?

Following certain preventive measures can help you prevent corns and calluses’ growth. 

  • Wear non-medicated corn pads, bandages, and felt pads over the areas of your skin that are prone to friction. You can also use some lamb’s wool or a toe separator between your toes. 
  • While wearing a shoe, you must be able to wiggle your toes. Or you can get it stretched from a shoe shop to avoid friction and pressure on your feet. 
  • Wear gloves or cover your tool handles with covers or cloth tapes while using them.


As calluses result from friction and pressure against the skin, there are possibilities that this will return at any time. Continuous wear of poorly fitted shoes is the major cause of corns and calluses. Most corns and calluses can be managed at home, but the doctor can examine the feet and treat them if the patient is concerned.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) 

Is corn just a callus?

Corns and callus are not the same. Corns are smaller in size and deeper than calluses, with a hard center. It is surrounded with swollen skin and is painful when pressed.

Do corns and calluses go away?

They go away on their own when pressure and friction reduces.

Can you pull a corn out of your foot?

It is advisable not to cut or shave away your corns on your own as it may lead to infection of the surrounding tissues. Cutting or shaving should be performed by a doctor.

Verified By Apollo Dermatologist
The content is carefully chosen and thoughtfully organized and verified by our panel expert dermatologists who have years of experience in their field. We aim to spread awareness to all those individuals who are curious and would like to know more about their skin and beauty

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